Burnout is a term that started to be used in the 1970’s. While it has never been well-defined, the National Institutes of Health describes it as exhaustion, alienation from work and people, and reduced performance in everyday tasks. Many people attribute burnout to their jobs. But in reality, what is happening at work is only one contributor to stress and burnout. According to the American Psychological Association, money, workplace and family are the top three contributors. While stress is always going to be a part of life, there are ways to limit or avoid the negative effects of burnout. Below are 6 tips that can help.
1. Find something you love to do and do more of it.
Leaders often assume they are burning out because of working too many hours. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it’s that leaders are not doing what they are passionate about. If a leader can get to the point of doing 80% of what they love, they won’t track hours, they will gain energy. Most leaders don’t count hours unless what they are doing is draining, boring and falling far short of the 80%.
2. Work with at least one great friend.
When you work with someone you really like to be around, the stress of work goes down and the joy of work goes up. This is true even if you have a job you really don’t like. If you do what you love and get to do it alongside of people you love, the likelihood of burnout dramatically goes down. And, if you don’t already have at least one great friend at work, there is nothing keeping you from developing one!
3. Know yourself and your system.
God has made everyone a bit different. We need to know our own body and the signs of how we are doing. In addition, we need to know our system which includes our spouse and children and how their uniqueness and expectations influence our energy and health. Some leaders tire out more quickly than others and will need to build endurance. Other leaders may have circumstances in their personal lives that are draining far more energy than their job. You cannot prevent burnout without knowing yourself and your unique circumstances.
4. Leave superman and wonder-woman for the movies.
Sometimes our desire to live up to the expectations of others or our reputation of being “hard workers” and “first in and last out” and “I don’t know how she does it all” can place us as leaders in a deadly performance trap. Even when we love what we do and even if we are fortunate enough to work with great friends, we still have limits, and we must monitor and manage those limits or suffer the consequences.
5. Build endurance.
Some leaders need to build more endurance – not reduce stress. In other words, the problem is not that they have too much stress, it’s that they do not have a high enough endurance for a leadership role. For these types of leaders, they would do well to have someone coach them in building endurance or grit rather than fleeing from stress. An athlete or soldier does not get stronger by reducing stress but rather by building muscle and endurance over time.
6. Relieve pressure.
There are times that burnout is a real and present danger – declining energy, feeling depressed, lack of motivation, etc. Research is constantly showing that the benefits of exercise can include reducing stress. In addition, be courageous and seek out a medical opinion to see if anything else may be contributing to how you are feeling. Also, consider seeing a counselor or coach for some help in making sense of what you are experiencing. Sometimes, just having a confidential listener can provide enough hope and help you to regain your momentum over time.
Identifying the signs of burnout early and implementing the above tips can help to avoid it. Contact The Center to learn more about how coaching can assist you or another team member in building endurance!
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.